High court puts officer on notice for denying pension benefits to widow
The court acted on the plea of a bed-ridden 56-year-old widow from SBS Nagar, who had approached the court seeking its intervention
The Punjab and Haryana high court has sought a response from the officer concerned, who in 2019 passed an order against an employee, withholding his pension and has also summoned records of the case.
The high court bench of justice JS Puri observed that an officer has to exercise the power in a “reasonable and proper manner” and in “accordance with law”. The officer, then registrar of Cooperative Societies, Punjab, Vikas Garg, had passed the order in July 2019. The court suo motu impleaded him as a party even as he is now secretary, department of transport.
The court acted on the plea of a bed-ridden 56-year-old widow from SBS Nagar, who had approached the court seeking its intervention.
As per the plea, her husband, Gurmail Singh, was working as a junior scale stenographer with the department of cooperation. During his service, an FIR was registered against him and he was convicted by the trial court in a case of voluntarily causing hurt and was awarded three years jail term. An appeal against the same is pending before the high court. His request for voluntary retirement was accepted on March 31, 2014, post his conviction. He died in September 2015, as per plea.
The plea argued that once her husband had retired by way of an order, he was entitled to all the pension benefits, and after him, she was entitled to the same. In 2016, she approached the high court, and in the order passed, the court then had discussed the “right” of the husband to pension and that not more than 1/3rd of the pension can be withheld. The state was given two months to pass an order. However, the order was passed in July 2019, denying the pension benefits.
The justification given was that at the time when the husband had retired, he had concealed about his conviction, the plea said, adding that this fact was incorrect as the pendency of the criminal trial was already in the knowledge of the department.
The plea argued that the order passed by the officer was “not only cryptic and arbitrary but was also contemptuous” in nature.
It was further apprised that the entire pension has been withheld. An order has been passed against a dead person on the basis of grave misconduct which is unknown to service jurisprudence, it was submitted.
The bench took note of the fact that the woman was bedridden and 56 years of age, and it was her second round of litigation in the high court. “....it prima facie appears that the order (July 2019) has been passed without application of mind which resulted in difficulties faced by a widow,” it said, adding that ordinarily, the court would not implead the officer in person. However, in the facts and circumstances of the case, where the prima facie July 2019 order appeared “illegal and in violation of rules”, the explanation of the officer needed to be called for. Hence, he has been made a party, and a response has been sought by February 16.